Improving the lives of others

Over the past 35 years, Life Healthcare has built a strong brand anchored in quality healthcare delivery


Over the past 35 years, Life Healthcare has built a strong brand anchored in quality healthcare delivery, a quality patient experience, efficient operations, strong partnerships and making a meaningful contribution to society and the communities they serve
Dr Shrey Viranna, the Group CEO, discusses their world-class facilities, innovative technologies and treatment techniques and the importance of patient quality and safety measures.

Life Healthcare is one of the largest private hospital operators in the country. Please could you take us through Life Healthcare’s journey by telling us about its formation, growth and how, over the years, it has built its trusted reputation?

We recognise that trust is earned through consistent delivery and throughout our journey, we have focused squarely on putting patients at the centre of everything we do, and have strived to embed our core values in all our territories, across all our business lines and partners. We respect our traditions and roots, and we also recognise the importance of continually innovating and challenging assumptions to remain future-fit and deliver on our aspiration of improving the accessibility and affordability of quality healthcare.

The Group’s story starts in 1983 when it was founded as the hospital’s division of African Oxygen Limited (Afrox) through the acquisition of four hospitals.

Over time, we have expanded our South African operations through acquisitions and the construction of new hospitals.

In 1997, Life Healthcare expanded operations outside of South Africa for the first time with the acquisition of Gaborone Hospital in Botswana. A year later, we began our diversification into complementary health services with the acquisition of Afrox Occupational Healthcare, followed by the opening of Life Healthcare’s first rehabilitation, mental health and renal dialysis units in the major centres in South Africa.

The Presmed hospital group was acquired in 1999 in a transaction structured as a merger and reverse listing on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange (JSE). We later acquired 55% of Lifecare (now Life Esidimeni) and the Amahosp Group in Durban.

In 2005, the Group delisted and sold to a private consortium led by Brimstone and Mvelaphanda and changed its name to Life Healthcare. We listed on the JSE in 2010 and our diversification continued with the acquisition of Careways, an established health and wellness business.

Life Healthcare now operates a network of 65 hospitals and facilities situated in seven of South Africa’s nine provinces and Botswana. The hospital business is complemented by mental health, acute rehabilitation, renal dialysis, oncology and employee health solutions.

While Life Healthcare’s history is steeped in a rich tradition of improving patients’ lives, what really excites us is the future of healthcare and how we can positively impact the lives of many more people and help deliver on new healthcare models to benefit population segments we don’t currently serve.

Your purpose is to make life better and to improve the lives of others. Please could you elaborate on this purpose? What are your values, vision and mission and how do they work together to achieve that purpose?

Life Healthcare is driven by a simple, but powerful purpose, making life better, underpinned by our vision to become a market leading diversified international healthcare providerand mission to improve the lives of others through the delivery of high-quality cost-effective care.

Our core values are a passion for people, qe—quality to the power of ‘e’ (ethics, excellence, empowerment, empathy, energy), performance pride, personal care and lifetime partnerships. Our core values are the cornerstone of our culture and guide the behaviours that support our purpose. Caring for patients goes beyond healing and recovery—it also involves building a thoughtful and empathetic connection with our patients. We, therefore, strive to instil these values not only in our employees but also in our partners through our CARE and iShift programmes.

Life Healthcare has 65 excellent hospitals to choose from—what makes your facilities excellent? What are some of the innovative technologies and treatment techniques that are utilised and how are you able to offer the appropriate scope of healthcare services?

Life Healthcare is continually expanding, renovating and upgrading its hospitals and facilities to ensure that the treatment offered is world-class.

The rapid advancement of medical technology is also changing the way we deliver healthcare. Stereotactic radiosurgery and robotic-assisted surgery are two examples of cutting-edge technology in use at our facilities. We have also invested in state-of-the-art robotics. Life Kingsbury Hospital is the first hospital in Africa to install the latest version of the robotic surgical system, the da Vinci Surgical System. This system allows surgeons to perform precision surgery, which minimises post-operative pain and reduces hospital stay and recovery times.

What are the various services you offer? Why should people choose Life Healthcare?

Life Healthcare is proud to offer quality services across the full healthcare continuum.

Our hospitals and facilities range from high-technology, multi-disciplinary hospitals, to community hospitals, same-day surgical centres and niche facilities. We are the first and only hospital group in South Africa to be awarded ISO 9001 and ISO 14001 certification, underlining our commitment to quality care that complies with international standards.

Our acute business is complemented by nine mental health facilities, seven acute rehabilitation facilities and other services.

To ensure that patient-centred care remains our focus, at Life Healthcare, we take a disciplined approach to the ongoing evaluation and measurement of the patient experience. We are committed to transparency, thus, we publish our patient experience scores in real-time on our website, giving insight into the hospital stay and the level of service delivered.Similarly, we are continuously improving on our already high clinical quality measures and on reporting these at a hospital level. Patient centricity and compassion is at the heart of everything we do. This is emphasised through our dedication to wellbeing, clinical excellence, quality service, respect and a spirit of giving to those entrusted to our care.

The importance of choosing the right doctor is paramount? How do you ensure only passionate physicians who are truly committed to caring for the patients’ health and wellbeing are partnered with?

Inherent in Life Healthcare’s purpose is being a clinically-led organisation, focused on achieving the best possible patient outcomes. We believe a key enabler of world-class healthcare is working in close partnership with medical professionals to deliver clinical excellence and quality.

To this end, Life Healthcare commissioned extensive research to inform how we source and partner with doctors. While our doctors are independent healthcare practitioners, not employees of our hospitals, our partnership model guides the attraction and retention of medical talent to build a sustainable doctor succession pipeline.

Relationship-building with doctors begins during their time as students and registrars at university.Wetest for technical skills, values and a cultural fit. Once we agree to partner with doctors and provide an opportunity to establish their private practice within our facilities, we build a mutually beneficial, long-term partnership with them. To retain doctors, we create an environment in which doctors want to work by providing world-class hospitals, consulting rooms and facilities and market-leading nursing and support services.

At the heart of our mission lies the quest for clinical excellence, which aims to offer the best quality of care at the most affordable cost. We maintain a group quality scorecard, which cuts across patient experience, health safety and clinical outcomes measures. We have also partnered with our clinicians in order to entrench cost efficiency and sustainability in our business. Each clinician receives an annual Doctor Quality and Efficiency report to share his or her practice data. Similarly, we ensure continued clinical excellence through doctor participation in regular clinical review panels.

Please could you tell us about the importance of patient quality and safety measures?

Patient centricity is the foundation of Life Healthcare. As a result, we have very high standards when it comes to patient quality, their safety and experience. The Group has a clinical governance, quality and safety board committee, which oversees all matters related to quality care and ensures appropriate monitoring, improvement and alignment. The clinical directorate coordinates patient care to maintain international standards of medical care and guides doctors and clinical employees in matters related to clinical services.

We are unique in that we are the only South African private hospital group to publish our quality data both on our website and in our integrated annual report. The data is determined by internationally accepted methodologies and allows patients to make informed choices. This demonstrates how seriously we take quality measures.

Tell us about your personal education and career journey. What set you on your current path and prepared you for your role as Group CEO? What inspired your passion to enter into the medical field?

My career has always been rooted in the healthcare industry and my passion for healthcare stems from my childhood. My mother dedicated her entire life to public health, providing healthcare to disadvantaged communities in South Africa and some of my earliest memories are of spending my weekends with her in rural clinics in KwaZulu-Natal.

I qualified as a Medical Doctor from the University of KwaZulu-Natal and then moved out of clinical practice to join McKinsey & Co, where I worked for 12 years. During this period, I led the healthcare and implementation practices, with a particular focus on healthcare system transformation and the implementation of public health strategies in Africa and the Middle East. I also personally supported a number of Ministers of Health in their reform programmes.

This experience afforded me significant exposure to healthcare systems and organisations, both locally and globally. Prior to taking over the helm at Life Healthcare, I served as the CEO for Discovery’s Vitality and Card businesses where I helped drive operational and financial performance. I also spearheaded the further enhancement of Discovery’s wellness focus to improve measurable health outcomes. 

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